What are a tenant’s obligations in Ohio’s Landlord Tenant Law?
Tenant duties in Ohio come from a variety of sources, including the Ohio Revised Code Section 5321.05; local codes; and Federal program regulations if a tenant lives in Federally assisted housing, and the rental agreement with the landlord.
Tenant duties under the Ohio Landlord Tenant statute include:
Note that these points are a summary of the duties, not the actual language of the law.
Comply with local housing, health and safety codes that apply to tenants means it's important for tenants to know something about the local codes. In some communities, for example, local code requires a rental property to be pest free when the tenant moves in and then if a new pest infestation occurs it’s a tenant’s duty to correct. If tenant can show that she/he was not responsible for the new infestation, the duty shifts to the landlord. Other examples of local codes that apply to tenants can include clutter in the unit and parking on the lawn. Common code requirements are often described on a municipality's web site.
If a tenant lives in Federally assisted housing, there are additional duties that may be included in the model lease or lease addendum. The most obvious of these duties is the requirement to report changes in income that may affect how much rent a tenant owes. HUDclips is a good place to research Federal requirements.
The landlord’s right of entry appears in three different sections of the law, 5321.04 (A0 (8) and (B) and 5321.05 (B), and so it’s good to know how all three work together. A summary goes like this: Tenant will not restrict a landlord’s right to enter the dwelling unit, if the request is reasonable and proper notice is given. In an emergency, no prior notice is required, otherwise 24 hours is reasonable. Landlords often forget that they have a duty to enter “at a reasonable time and in a reasonable manner. Other issues around “right of entry” are adding locks, sexual harassment by management staff, and what’s a reasonable time to enter.
Under the Ohio Landlord Tenant Statute, tenants are responsible for persons on the lease and for persons on the premises with their permission. Someone who comes to visit one tenant and then ends up at a loud party down the hall could be the responsibility of the tenant who invited or permitted the guest to come on to the property. A rule of thumb is to keep guests under control and take steps to correct their misbehavior. Sometimes tenants get into trouble because an ex partner, former friend, or baby daddy shows up uninvited. Tenants must ake clear to unwanted visitors that they must leave the property. HINT: have a witness and put the prohibition in writing or get a restraining order. Some management companies use “banning” to block access to guests...sometimes with flimsy excuses. If a guest is banned, a tenant may ask for a copy of the banning policy and specific reasons for the ban. If you think that banning is unjustified, contact an attorney.
Peaceful enjoyment is one of those “gray areas” in the law. Tenants believe that the landlord is responsible to maintain the peaceful enjoyment of the premises. They may be right, but that’s not what the law says. The duty to preserve peaceful enjoyment falls on the tenant. Lawyers will tell you that there is a “common law” duty on the landlord to maintain peaceful enjoyment, but enforcing that most often means hiring a lawyer. A non legal way to deal with problem neighbors is calling the cops and hoping for the best.
Don’t forget duties in the rental agreement. Ohio Landlord Tenant Statute permits owners and tenants to put in the lease any duty that is not covered by the law. Landlords may not shift a landlord duty to a tenant and may not create a provision that is “unconscionable” (unfair). Because, from time to time, property managers “make up” rules on the spur of the moment, it’s always good to get the rules in writing...even when it is an oral rental agreement. Parking rules, who is allowed to live in the unit, or who mows the lawn are great examples of things that should be written.
What about the tenant duty to comply with state and local drug laws? Years ago, as a part of the “War on Drugs,” the Ohio General Assembly created a new legal process that turned out to be so cumbersome that landlords and law enforcement officers have not attempted to use it for many years. Usually, landlords will include a drug use policy as a lease addendum or seek termination based on some other provision of the law, like peaceful enjoyment.
Under ORC Section 5321.05 (C) (1) a landlord may be able to collect damages and attorney fees for a tenant’s violation of a statutory duty That’s in addition to lease termination and eviction. Few tenants know that eviction in Ohio is a two step process. First cause is to recover possession of the unit; second cause is for money damages. If tenant fails to answer a second cause claim in writing, courts often enter a default judgment against the tenant for the amount claimed by the landlord.